Bangladesh clears execution for top extremist leader
Bangladesh’s highest court Sunday rejected the final appeal by a top extremist leader to overturn his death sentence, all but paving the way for his execution within weeks.
The Supreme Court upheld a 2008 order to execute Mufti Abdul Hannan and two associates for an attack on a shrine that left three dead and injured the British high commissioner at the time.
The decision comes just weeks after armed militants attempted to free Hannan in a daring ambush as police transferred the high-profile extremist between prisons.
The appeal dismissal leaves Hannan and his associates no further legal avenues to escape the gallows and they could be hanged within a week, said Attorney General Mahbubey Alam.
“They can still beg for their lives to the president,” he told AFP, though there is no such precedent of an Islamist extremist being granted clemency in Bangladesh.
The trio were sentenced to death for masterminding a 2004 grenade attack that killed three and injured scores more, including then British high commissioner (ambassador) Anwar Choudhury.
It was among the most high-profile attacks orchestrated by the Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami (HuJI) group, headed by Hannan, across Bangladesh in the mid-1990s.
By the time Hannan was arrested in late 2005 more than 100 people had been killed in attacks by HuJI on a church, secular gatherings and mosques used by Islam’s minority sects.
His supporters attempted to free their influential leader in early March by hurling hurl bombs at police vans transporting Hannan, but failed to secure his release.
Bangladesh has suffered a spate of attacks on secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities in recent years.
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have claimed responsibility in some cases but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government has pinned the blame on local outfits.
Islamic State claimed responsibility Saturday for a suicide bomb attack on a Bangladesh security forces camp, while police in Dhaka shot dead a suspected militant in a separate incident.
Police have arrested scores of suspected extremists and killed more than 50 people since an attack on a Dhaka cafe last year that left 22 dead.